Tuesday, February 12, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 20

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 20: Evaluating Your Expenses - Food

Eat out less. We've been really good about this lately. We're averaging less than 2 times/month.

Learn to cook. Mr. Gaia is the cook in the family but I've been working on developing a few meals of my own. I need to get Hyperion and Oceanus in the kitchen with me.

Eat leftovers. Ugh. We were doing so well, but I don't know what happened. We cleaned out the fridge this weekend and it was sooo gross. We are doing better again, though. We've started using glass jars to store food in the fridge and they just really draw your eye. We're also working on "planned leftovers". When we cook, we have an idea of what meal we can make with the leftovers, or when we can eat the leftovers as they are.

Buy a freezer. We have an upright freezer. A chest freezer is more energy efficient but with my hand issues, we never dug in the freezer and a lot of food sat in there for 5 years or more.

Organize potluck dinners. We don't yet have a group of friends to do this with. Maybe soon, though.

Monday, February 11, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 19

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 19: Evaluating Your Expenses - Automobiles

Today is ways to save automobile expenses.

1) Coast to a stop. I always do this. If I see a "stale green" light (a light that has been green for several blocks), I take my foot off the brake so I don't have to slam on my brakes when it turns yellow. Doing this got me significantly more mileage on my brakes.

2) Don't speed. I'm so guilty of this. Although, I almost never drive on the highway anymore, so I don't get the chance to speed. Most of my commute is through school zones and I don't EVER speed through those.

3) Clean out your air filter. I never thought of this one - just shake or blow out the dirt.

4) Properly inflate your tires. I need to do this more regularly. I do check on it every other month or so, but that's not really enough.

5) Keep your car clean to reduce the weight. Another thing I'm guilty about. The kids dump their stuff in there and never take it out.

6) Keep an eye on gas station prices. This one really doesn't fit me. I only fill up once/month and only have 2 stations along my commute and both are the same company.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 18

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 18: Evaluating Your Expenses - Energy

Another good article.

1) Replace your lights with CFLs. We did this long ago and they move with us from house to house (because our realtor insisted that you have to have incandescents to sell a house and because I didn't want to leave a lot of CFLs in a rental house after they threw away all my nice finished compost).

2) Get a programmable thermostat. Our house came with one and it is marvelous. The only problem is that in the summer you can't turn the AC higher than 87.

3) Install surge protectors. I have a UPS for my computer and everything else is plugged into power strips that provide some protection. I'll have Mr. Gaia check to see if they're enough.

4) Turn off your home computer. My computer is never left on. At the least, I put it to sleep if I know I'm going to be doing something else for 5 minutes or more.

5) Air seal your home. This is one we haven't done, but need to look into it. Our house leaks like a sieve. It's not a big deal NOW when it's 69 outside, but it could really save us some money in the summer.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 17

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 17: Evaluating Your Expenses - Life Insurance

This is a fairly interesting entry. I'll admit I know waaaaay too little about life insurance, so I can't say if the figures presented here are correct or not. Right now, we all have life insurance through Mr. Gaia's employer. The kids' policy is just enough for burial expenses and some therapy for the rest of us (as a child, one of my brothers died after a car accident and that's exactly what his small policy was used for and it was a good thing we had it, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to afford the help we needed).

I'll definitely keep this bookmark for when we get our next social security statement. Basically, his math is such: 90% of your salary, subtract your dependent Social Security benefit, then divide that amount by 0.08.

Friday, February 08, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 16

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 16: Evaluating Your Expenses - Home and Auto Insurance

This one is self explanatory. I'll admit I haven't priced homeowners insurance since I bought the house. At the time I called all the agents in town and checked online and this was the best deal.

Same with auto insurance.

Now, I should probably shop around again, but I don't want to have my credit score pulled right now. There's a chance we'll be moving in the summer, which would mean buying a new house and we're in major "credit score" mode. All credit cards are being paid down (we had some with 0% interest while the money was in the bank earning interest) and we're taking care not to do anything that would have any kind of negative impact on our score.

I've not heard of any insurance company that doesn't do a hard pull on your credit.

Now, Mr. Gaia's car is paid off this month, so we need to figure out if we're going to keep full coverage or not.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 15

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 15: Coming In Under Budget And An Emergency Fund

Today's discussion was what to do about the money leftover each month. The idea is to put this money in a separate, high interest account until you've built up an emergency fund that contains at least 6 months' salary.

I do agree with this, but think it leaves a little bit out. It forgets that some of our "monthly expenses are actually annual or semi-annual expenses that were prorated to a monthly amount. So when you do this, be prepared to leave those amounts in the bank until the bill comes due. My examples would be home insurance, car insurance, property taxes, and car tag and inspection.

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 14

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 14: Get Rid Of Debts (Slowly But Surely)

Today we're looking at our debts and making plans for paying them off. The amount in our budget that is supposed to go to debt payments is EXTRA debt payments, not the minimum.

I agree with him in theory, but right now I can make more money on investments than I can save by paying off my debts early. BUT, Mr. Gaia and I have our spreadsheet worked out and know exactly what our break even point is for interest rates. We know exactly what interest rate we need to get to make money over paying off debts. As interest rates are dropping, we're carefully weighing it all again.

Monday, February 04, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 13

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 13: Pay For Your Dreams First

The advice for today is to open a new bank account. In theory, I agree whole heartedly with this advice, however we have several accounts now and I don't think Mr. Gaia would be easily convinced to open a new account.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 12

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 12: A Flexible “Budget” That Reflects Your Reality

Today, we take the list we made yesterday and multiple the hours by 52 (to get the yearly amount) and then divide by 12 (to get the monthly amount). We then multiply those numbers by our hourly wage to get a true budget.

Mortgage__________ 43.68___$549.93
Phone _____________5.55___ $ 69.83
Electricity___________5.94___$ 74.74
Gas________________1.17__ $ 14.73
Fuel_______________ 3.2___ $174.58
Water/Trash_________3.94___$ 49.65
Student Loan________14.26___$179.49
Car Insurance________6.33___ $ 79.65
Car Tags____________1.26___$ 15.82
Inspection Stickers_____0.13__ $ 1.64
Car maintenance______ 0.95___$ 12.00
Home Insurance______ 3.94___$ 49.65
Property Taxes______11.87___ $149.49
Maintenance Fee______2.34___$ 29.46
Groceries__________23.79___ $299.52
Kids' Activities_______1.56___ $ 19.64
School Lunches______ 2.3_____$ 28.92
Car Payment _______1.17_____$ 14.73 (notice, this is prorated for the 1 payment)
Paper Products _____0.78_____$ 9.82
Cable ____________10.31____$129.84
Entertainment ______0.39____$ 4.91
Clothing ___________1.3_____$ 16.37
Eating Out _________4.72____$ 59.47
Medical ___________1.95____$ 24.55
Credit Card_______82.18___$1,034.67
TX Master Naturalist_4.33____$ 54.56
Certified Arborist____6.5____$ 81.84
529 plan_________64.85____$816.44
organic foods______4.33____$ 54.56
Grow a garden_____2.17____$ 27.28

Saturday, February 02, 2008

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 11

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 11: Dividing Up The Rest and Finishing Our “Time Budget”

Okay, today's exercise ...

A) List the 5 short term goals and our debts
1) Complete the Texas Master Naturalist course.
2) Complete Certified Arborist certification.
3) Start a 529 plan for each of the boys.
4) Continue to eat healthful and organic foods and lose this extra 20 pounds.
5) Grow a garden to provide at least 50% of our vegetables this year.
Car - $182.69 Student Loan - $10,425.96 House - $64,684.95 CC (0%) - $615.94

B) Take the leftover hours from yesterday and divide that by 2
Total hours each week = 81.97, hours leftover = 37.93 divided by 2 = 18.965

Half of these hours go to debts (as extra payments) and half go to short term goals.

C) Assemble a big picture to show where all of our hours go:

Mortgage__________ 10.08
Phone ______________1.28
Gas_________________ 0.27
Fuel________________ 3.20
Water/Trash__________ 0.91
Student Loan_________ 3.29
Car Insurance_________1.46
Car Tags_____________0.29
Inspection Stickers______0.03
Car maintenance_______0.22
Home Insurance_______0.91
Property Taxes________2.74
Maintenance Fee_______0.54
Kids' Activities_________0.36
School Lunches________0.53
Car Payment __________0.27
Paper Products ________0.18
Cable _______________2.38
Entertainment ________0.09
Clothing _____________0.30
Eating Out ___________1.09
Medical _____________0.45
Credit Card__________18.965
Texas Master Naturalist__1.0
Certified Arborist_______1.5
529 plan____________14.965
organic foods__________1.0
Grow a garden__________.5

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 10

31 Days To Fix Your Finances, Day 10: Fitting Your Expenses Into The Bigger Picture

By the steps again:

1) Make 3 columns and list as follows:
1) each expense from day 8
2) amount per week from day 8
3) calculate true hourly wage for each item

Mortgage_______126.9231___ 10.08
Phone __________16.1538 ____1.28
Electricity________17.3076 ____1.37
Gas_____________3.4615____ 0.27
Fuel____________40.3846____ 3.20
Water/Trash______11.5384____ 0.91
Student Loan_____41.5384____ 3.29
Car Insurance_____18.4615____1.46
Car Tags_________ 3.6538____0.29
Inspection Stickers__0.3846____0.03
Car maintenance___ 2.8846____0.22
Home Insurance____11.5384 ___0.91
Property Taxes____34.6153____2.74
Maintenance Fee___ 6.9230____0.54
Kids' Activities______4.6153___0.36
School Lunches_____6.7307___0.53
Car Payment _______3.4615___0.27
Paper Products _____2.3076___0.18
Cable___________ 30 _______2.38
Clothing __________3.8461____0.30
Eating Out________13.8461____1.09

2) Total the number of hours spent each week for these items = 44.04 (there's a difference in rounding between this and Day 8). Together we spend 81.97 hours working. So we're at 54% of our hours each week are spent on these items. Which is lower than I thought. I suspect I'm still leaving something out.